Tag Archive: prophet


AMDG

Today’s Gospel should make us feel uncomfortable – the rich man who steps over the beggar at his gate. Like all of us he is uncomfortable when confronted with destitution, with extreme poverty….  I think Jesus wants us to feel uncomfortable when we hear his words today.

Cladownloadyton M Christensen , in 1995, coined the phrase disruptive technology.  These are innovations often produced by an outsider which changes the market, or the way we do things. So for instance in Academia, whose currency is the transmission of knowledge – Wikipedia is  a disruptive technology, open source, peer edited,  free access to knowledge, which led to end of to many traditional encyclopaedias being produced.  You can think of many examples digital photography and the demise of Kodak, Uber challenging the taxi industry, amazon and bookshops etc etc

The Gospels of Jesus Christ are meant to be disruptive –  Jesus in the tradition of Prophets from the Old Testament is warning us.  The Prophet Amos in th first reading says ‘Woe to the Complacent in Zion’  …. Our complacency our comfort in this world where there is such extreme wealth and extreme poverty is an offence to God.  Amos the prophet does not mince his words.

But Jesus is more sophisticated even as a prophet – he doesn’t want to harangue us, he doesn’t just want us to feel guilty and powerless that we can do nothing, he wants us to change our hearts – he wants a deeper transformation.  He wants us to ponder this parable, to reflect on it … to pray with it – so that our hearts change.

tentsofsomeofthehomelessnearmanchesterpiccadillyrailstationToday’s Gospel of the poor man at the rich man’s gate is meant to disrupt our complacency – We are meant to feel uncomfortable if we really listen to this.   We see poverty on the streets of Manchester all the time, there is even a small tented shanty town growing up near Piccadilly, and we also see bright new shiny buildings going up everywhere.  This paradox is perplexing …. If the economy in Manchester is booming – how come so many people are obviously being left out?  What has happened to the common good?

sermon-slide-deck-til-death-do-us-part-matthew-19112-19-638And if we are honest we developing coping mechanisms to cope with this – but the danger is that all these coping mechanisms take us in on ourselves ….  Saint Augustine said that sin is a life lived “inward” for self rather than “outward” for God and others. The theological phrase in Latin (if you are interested) is “Incurvatus in se” (Turned/curved inward on oneself).  How many things allow us to live like that now – we can control our environment – glued to our smart phones – living digital lives – we put our headphones in and we can even block the world out.  But let us acknowledge these are coping mechanisms.

But God has told us repeatedly through the prophets, through Moses, through Abraham, to have a deep attentiveness to the Poor….. but that makes us uncomfortable.   Jesus wants us time and time again about the isolating power of wealth …  the more we have we are that isolated from each other, and ultimately isolated from God – we create rich ghettoes, gated communities, bigger walls…. And we become miserable

How can we help?  There are so many ways so many initiatives flowering up around us ….  The Holy Name and the Chaplaincy are becoming a centre for many of these initiatives…..  just take the newsletter home and read it.  But even before that maybe we can pray for the grace of freedom – to leave the technological arms race where we have to constantly upgrade our phones, the grace of freedom to realise how we are trapped by consumerism, and how we become blind to our neighbours in need…   That could be our simple prayer for the week …  Lord make me free…  when we get up in the morning and when we go to bed at night.

Homily given at the Holy Name Sunday 25th September 12.00 mass 

AMDG

During these weeks we are following the story of Ezekiel in the readings at mass.  Some of the readings and the violence of God are very challenging, especially at a time when our news bulletins are full of stories of religious violence.   A sign of a good preacher is not to avoid the challenging readings but to tackle them face on.  Last week we had an excellent reflection from Karen Eliasen – one of the team at St Beuno’s.  Karen has given me permission to share it on the blog.  

Ent. antiphon: “Arise, O God, and defend your cause, and forget not the cries of those who seek you.”  

Karen Eliasen, St Beuno’s

80All this week, and next week, we have readings from the Book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel himself comes across as many things: he’s part prophet, part priest, part visionary mystic, part plain old madman. But however we label him, Ezekiel is above all someone who is in continuous dialogue with God. The whole of the Book of Ezekiel bristles with passionate exchanges between God and this mad prophet. Mostly these exchanges are about people doing wrong, and about what God is doing about people doing wrong. In today’s reading, we encounter a terrifying God, terrifying because he is furious at his own people, and he’s furious because his people are doing wrong. And so in his fury, God commands death for them. “Kill and exterminate them all,” God shouts to a group of armed men. God commands death for his own people, and the command is carried out; all is destroyed, and Ezekiel is witness to this:  Jerusalem is laid waste, the Temple is burnt to the ground, the people are starved, slaughtered, hauled into exile. These are the events that Ezekiel is writing out of – extreme, drastic events of unimaginable violence. And it is such events that Ezekiel and God are having their passionate exchanges about. God’s people are doing wrong; but what kind of a God then makes everything, everything – come to such an end? Will God not show pity, will he not show mercy, at all? Ezekiel, like God, is angry; but he is also concerned about God’s seeming lack of mercy.

Now we might easily convince ourselves that this merciless God lunging out at us from the pages of Ezekiel has little to do with the God of the Gospels. Here is what Jesus in today’s Matthew Gospel has to say about people doing wrong: “If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone” … talk it over, and if that doesn’t work, go and tell the community. And if that doesn’t work … well there is a cool, calm, and collected legal system in place to deal with it. Dealing with people who do wrong is not to be fuelled by the fury of a great armed anger, but by law. At least that’s how it is if you are a human being. But what if you are not a human being. What if you are God? What if you are Ezekiel’s God? This is not a God different from Jesus’ God. The God who is at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple is the same God who is at the crucifixion of Jesus. And this same God is Lord not only of death but Lord also of life. For we all know very well that Ezekiel’s God not only commands death, he also promises us life – he promises us new hearts and rivers flowing with living waters, he promises his people a covenant of peace, of shalom. Just like the God of the Gospels, who is there at the crucifixion, does.

3_11_2010_christians_iraqSo when we find ourselves far from shalom, even find ourselves in extreme and drastic circumstances far beyond law, when it feels like our whole world is being undone, what about God then? How do we, like Ezekiel, even begin to exchange words with God then? What is our prayer then? Scripture has one hope: we can cry out. Like the Israelites in Egypt, we can cry out. That’s the very prayer we heard in the entrance antiphon today– did you catch that plea right at the beginning of Mass just now: “Arise, O God, and defend your cause, and forget not the cries of those who seek you.” Let us not forget the cries of those who seek God –  including ourselves.

Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-22; Mt 18:15-20

AMDG            Yesterdays Homily for the feast of the Presentation given in Oxford 

touching-the-void-posterA few years ago I read a book called Touching the Void – it was one of those books that you can’t put down and I thing I read it in three sittings in the space of 24 hours…… it told the story of climber called Joe Simpson and his friend who had a climbing accident in a remote mountain in the Andes…….. After breaking his leg, his friend lowered him down, attached by a rope, in rapidly worsening conditions, till eventually he was lowered off a cliff. Finding themselves at a dangerous impasse, he had to make an excruciating choice, they wither both wait and die, or he cuts the rope abandoning his friend to almost certain death, but probably survives himself.

He cut the Rope.

Amazingly his friend was to survive, and crawl back to the base six days later.…………However  going back to that night when the rope was cut, he fell and landed on a ledge.  When he was sitting on the ledge, alone, forsaken …. and staring death in the face, Joe Simpson decided there was no God.  He encountered  a void……  He would have experienced what St Ignatius would refer to as an acute desolation.   The recently canonised Jesuit Pierre Favre, talks about intense experiences in prayer ‘where God withdraws his presence’. Not permanently ….. but in a way to teach us when we are in danger of taking God for granted.  In the time of the Ezekiel, about 600 years before the birth of Christ – he predicted a chilling prophecy ‘ That the Glory of the Lord would leave the Temple’ .  This would be devastating news for the people, that temple was where humans and God were reconciled;  it was the unique place to encounter God, the one place where sacrifice to God was allowed.  Can you imagine how the People must have felt when Ezekiel prophesied that the Glory of the Lord would leave the temple’.  The temple would soon be destroyed by the Babylonians,  for the Jewish People it was a communal experience of touching the void.

images (1)So we can appreciate today’s readings, and particularly the Joy of the Prophets Simeon and Anna in the light of this experience of desolation.   Firstly we heard the Prophet Malachi in the first reading,  ‘And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek,’  – this prophecy would give great hope….. but none would expect the manner of the Lord’s coming.  And so today we hear how the child Jesus is presented before God in the Temple. We are told that Simeon is awaiting the consolation of the people Israel – and as he holds this child in his arms he believes this promise is finally fulfilled .  With the eyes of a prophet he recognises the presence of the Lord in this small child, and utters the words of that beautiful prayer ‘The Nunc Dimitiss’ which is said by millions of us each night at Compline.  Similarly the prophetess Anna, having spent years of prayer and fasting in the temple in anticipation of this moment, she rejoices in the Lord having returned to the temple.

The return to the temple of the Lord has profound significance for Christians on two levels….. Firstly in the physical, historical presence of the Lord – the presence of God on this planet is transformed.  In the incarnation – God is no longer limited to the Temple…. No longer limited to one city, one place.  Christ’s Body becomes the Temple – so as he dies on the cross, the curtain in the Temple that veils the Holy of Holies mysteriously is torn into two.  Then on the second level – the temple is the place of sacrifice, bulls and goats, doves and incense were offered to be burnt as thanksgiving offerings, guilt offerings, offerings at key moments in life e.g. childbirth.    When the Lord is presented in the Temple he will become the sacrifice that fulfils all other offerings – and we continue this sacrifice every day when we pray the beautiful prayer of the mass.  However in the sacrifice of the mass, the most beautiful prayer we can make, we relive the greatest sacrifice of all, Christ giving his body and blood for the sins of the world.  His sacrifice trumps all else – and this prayer is being offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all over the world, in great cathedrals and in simple chapels, in the heart of great cities and on the tops of mountains, in schools and universities and in rainforests.

So as the Lord is presented in the temple – let us renew our devotion to the mass – to Christ’s presence in the Liturgy of the Word and in the Eucharist, and in and amongst each other.  We are not alone – we are not abandoned – sitting on an icy edge of life,  when we gather together for mass, mysteriously we are in the real presence of God – whose grace works quietly and patiently transforming our hearts and our lives.